At the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas and seven of his fiercest Spartan warriors made a deal with Ares, the god of war. They became immortal protectors of mankind, fighting demons and creators of wars. Aware that Ares was a capricious god, they still believed that their goal was a noble one and agreed to serve under him. Now one of the warriors, Aristos Petrakos, is just learning how sneaky Ares really is.
Back in late Victorian-age Savannah, Ari had fallen in love with high-born Juliana Tiades. On the night he revealed his true nature to her, she turned away in disgust and rejected him. The next day, she drowned herself. Ever since, Ari has been unable to forget the pain of that night. What he doesn’t know is that Juliana didn’t reject him and didn’t commit suicide, and that she has been wandering around the streets of Savannah as a spirit. Now, in modern times, desperate to make contact with Ari once again, she makes a deal with a Djinn demon in order to gain a physical form. Juliana is a little naive, however, and doesn’t realize that the Djinn was sent by Ares himself, out to destroy Ari and regain the power over life and death that Ari currently holds. Once Ari and Juliana are reunited, chaos hits the team of Spartan brothers and supernatural friends (because there are also a bunch of mediums and shape-shifters in this story) and it is only a matter of time before the negative repercussions of Juliana’s return make themselves fully known.
I liked everyone very much. Ari’s camaraderie with his Spartan brothers is relaxed and often leads to hysterical bits of dialogue – I laughed at the idea of him trying to teach King Leonidas how to play DDR on a Wii. We get to see the human sides of the gods, and I particularly liked Eros’ heartbreaking desire to make his nasty father Ares proud of him. I loved Sable, a centaur demon who really tries his hardest to be evil but cannot help longing for the goodness of Sophie, a Daughter of Delphi, who once healed him. The only character I could not make myself like was Juliana, Ari’s girlfriend. She really, really annoyed me.
Juliana is a hoity-toity sex kitten who is (of course) otherwise innocent and demure. She “sirs” Ari when she’s oh-so primly miffed, and purrs at him the rest of the time. One second she’s sitting there sticking her nose in the air, the next she’s throwing herself at Ari and telling him to take her. She is really, really TSTL, because when she makes the deal with the demon to gain a human form, she has no concept of having to make any kind of payment in return. She thinks this beautiful woman is just going to help her for no cost, and when the demon comes to collect, she is shocked and scared. I was annoyed. I found her culture shock scenes (“Does that white plastic card act as currency?”) trite and unfunny – but maybe only because I didn’t like her, period. She also says really cheesy, formal things, which I suppose is a throwback to her Victorian mindset, but just end up being…cheesy.
My dislike of Juliana aside, the problem with her relationship with Ari is that we don’t see the development, or any of the falling-in-love aspect. We don’t get to see what draws them to each other besides enormous lust. Ari is also remarkably useless in this story, and heavily relies on his team to save Juliana. Luckily, I loved all the secondary characters/secondary relationships in the story, so I didn’t mind too much; it was only at the end that I realized that Ari didn’t play a huge part. The actual saving of Juliana happens in practically two paragraphs – you blink, and it’s already over. It felt a little incongruous to the rest of the book.
I do marginally recommend Red Demon, simply because the secondary characters and the world building are so fantastic. But while I enjoyed the world and liked the writing, the story and main characters themselves are not my favorite. Even so, I’ll continue reading the series, because I really loved Sable and Sophie, and think they deserve a good story.